HAVANA TIMES – Nicaraguan author Sergio Ramirez is convinced that since his voice as a writer is listened to, he has an obligation to speak of the reality around him – in this case Nicaragua’s ongoing crisis. At the same time, he spoke of his “exploratory” visit to Panama, where he’s making arrangements to have that country be the seat of the Centroamerica Cuenta Festival in 2024.
Ramirez, recipient of the 2017 Cervantes Prize, appeared in an interview with the Panamanian digital platform La Estrella. He spoke of his belief that a writer can have their artistic dimension, but also has a citizen’s duty to raise their voice when they’re not content with reality.
“Works of fiction aren’t written to give opinions, but to speak about human beings, of the complexity of the lives of human beings. However, if I have won some prestige as a writer and my voice is heard as a writer, well, then I’m always going to be speaking about the reality around me when I’m not satisfied with it. I feel a duty to raise my critical voice to confront that reality,” Ramirez stated.
The writer added: “you can be a good writer and remain silent, and that doesn’t diminish your literary works. I see it as an additional dimension of the writer, one I participate in, which is the writer who expresses themselves as a citizen.”
During the interview, Ramirez expressed hope of someday returning to a democratic Nicaragua. “It all depends on a change in the political circumstances. I’d never consider returning to Nicaragua in the current situation – as the fruit of a political concession, for example. Returning to a silenced country, a country living in fear, in isolation. What role wouId I have in that country? None,” the author responded to his own question. Ramirez was persecuted and later banished and declared stateless by the regime of Daniel Ortega.
“I think of my return, like that of all of us who have gone into exile for reasons including the lack of liberty, lack of democracy, repression. At the very least, there’d have to be conditions where the country was open to a change of system, a democratic change,” assured the author, whose most recent book, That day fell on a Sunday, joins a large body of other recognized literary works.
Centroamerica Cuenta 2024 in Panama
Sergio Ramirez is president of the Centroamerica Cuenta Festival, a literary event originally based in Nicaragua. However, 10 years after it began, it became an itinerant festival. “The adverse political circumstances caused us to leave Nicaragua. This has had its advantages, since it’s allowed us to enrich ourselves through experiences in different scenarios with distinct publics. The change has contributed to creating a reading public in the countries where the festival lands each year,” the writer shared.
The Centroamerica Cuenta Festival was held in Managua for the first years, then later was organized in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and the Dominican Republic. A parallel festival is held yearly in Madrid, Spain.
Its organizer now aspires to having Panama be the seat next year. “We’ve had very good backing; we’ve spoken with cultural leaders, government leaders, European ambassadors and we’re optimistic about building the needed supports to carry out the Festival in Panama next May.”